Okay, can we get past the race thing when it comes to elections here in the U.S.? As a people, haven’t we risen above such petty squabbles? Haven’t two centuries worth of civil rights taught us race and gender really aren’t qualifications for public office? I guess not. Well…at least not in some circles. Here lately, White men have been getting a bum rap from left-wing academics; the self-appointed protectorates of 21st century America. But, I’m here to say the rest of us can think for ourselves – and that White men aren’t always the enemy.
After all, I’m a mostly White guy myself. Both my grandfathers were White, e.g. Caucasian. My paternal was Spaniard (yes, full-blooded Spanish people are White!), while my maternal was German. And, German is just about as White as you can get; if you get any Whiter than that, you’re not White – you’re albino. Both my grandmothers were mixed Spaniard and Mexican Indian. And, it’s the latter two groups who comprise the contemporary Hispanic population that had such an impact on this year’s presidential elections. They’re the group who have been treated as recent arrivals in America, but – as a people – have actually been here long before the U.S. was born. They’re also the ones who’ve reacted with the same level of racial virulence whenever I mention my German grandfather as the White kids reacted to my Spanish surname when I was in high school – years ago! Yes, some Hispanics – like some Negroes – are as bigoted as a drunken Glenn Beck at a NASCAR rally. Seriously! Who would have thought they’d be my worst adversary? Well, sometimes they are. I’ve been called a “coconut,” which only bothers me because I don’t like coconut. But, I still think it’s kind of funny when Hispanics start talking about “White people” disparagingly. Unless they’re full-blooded Indians, they need to shove a coconut in their self-righteous mouths.
But, consider this. White males helped to build this country and – despite all the racial angst – also helped to break down the walls of segregation. President Harry S. Truman, for example, ended racial segregation in the U.S. military. President John F. Kennedy jumpstarted the modern civil rights movement, and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law. Other White males have done their part to make America a better place for everyone; whether it’s hiring non-Whites for a job other Whites thought they couldn’t or shouldn’t do, or teaching some non-White kid how to read and write. Ignore the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh for a while. They’re not models for the White American male. Most White men are decent, hard-working people who take care of their families and mind their own business. Many of them are part of that 47% that Mitt Romney disparaged. They don’t have houses with elevators for their cars and they can’t afford a luxury yacht.
A few of my closest friends are White males. They’re around my age and they’re tired of being scapegoated for every transgression non-Whites have endured throughout American history. Blacks and Hispanics don’t want to be automatically connected to the more dubious elements of our respective racial groups. I loathe being cast alongside illegal Mexican immigrants, even though México is where my mother and both my grandmothers were born. Most White men, therefore, don’t want to be grouped with the morons who burn crosses on people’s front lawns. White men aren’t slipping into predominantly Black neighborhoods and shoving drugs into the hands of the community’s youth. White men aren’t sneaking onto Indian reservations and surreptitiously exchanging sodas with beer in the convenience stores.
I often view racial discord in the same context as gender. As a 49-year-old man, it’s not my fault women couldn’t vote until 1920, or have a legal abortion until 1973. I wasn’t alive in 1920 and I was only 9 when Roe v. Wade became law. How the hell am I supposed to answer for the transgressions of my male ancestors? I can’t and I won’t! Guilt by association is a precarious thing. It just creates more anger.
In case you’ve forgotten, Barack Obama isn’t necessarily our first Black president; he’s actually our first biracial president. People keep forgetting his Caucasian half. His mother was a White-American, born and raised in the United States. That she fell in love with and married a Negro man in the early 1960s is amazing unto itself. So, if some White folks can’t get past Obama’s Negro side – just as some Black folks can’t get past his Caucasian side – then that’s their problem!
They all need to get over it. If they don’t, they’ll find themselves in the same bucket as 8-track tape players and – pardon the cheap analogy – black and white TVs. We really just need to move beyond that race thing. It’s not helping us anymore. It’s really not. This is the 21st century, and the Human Genome Project has proven we’re all pretty much related on a blood level. And, human blood is only one color. Now, who has a problem with that?!
6 responses to “In Defense of White Men”
Well said. Fact is, most Americans are basically mongrels (forgive the use of a word that was popular in the 50s to describe mixed race people), so playing the blame game could cause us to poke ourselves in the eye. Great post.
As someone of mixed race (Spanish, Mexican Indian and German), I’ve had to deal with tawdry comments about my ethnic heritage. My mother and her siblings really had a tough time because they were born of a German-American father and a Mexican mother. My mother and her younger brother would get into fights as kids whenever someone called them “half-breed.” I cracked a guy over the head with a glass beer mug several years ago when he called my mother and I “mixed breeds.” I really laid into a woman at the bank where I used to work because she made a similar comment. The fact we were in an office is the only thing that prevented me from smacking her upside the head. Those matters can get very ugly, and people don’t realize that words like that can inflame and hurt. Race really doesn’t matter – or, it shouldn’t. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, people must be judged on the content of their character.
Very good post. I agree with you that race SHOULD not be an issue for anyone in America, given the fact that we are all basically descendants from the same bloodline, as you noted. Unfortunately, as this election illustrated very clearly, many Americans do identify strongly along racial/cultural lines. There is a self-enforced homogeneity that remains prevalent in nearly every demographic group in this country. Most people choose to tailor-make their life experiences so that they can stay within their own familiar and comfortable parameters – the music on their iPods, the channels and shows they watch on TV, the blogs and newspapers they follow, the social media they use – and as a result we are finding fewer opportunities to engage with or observe those of other backgrounds. It’s like we’re reverting back to segregation in some ways, but this time it’s by choice. And all this racial isolationism means that we never get a chance to realize how alike we all are. It allows racial mistrust or outright racial hostility to continue unchallenged. I’m afraid this is a problem that can only be fixed by people individually deciding that they no longer want to live this way, but the odds of that happening are probably slim-to-none in today’s social and political climate. As the younger generations come up, we may see some things shifting, particularly if there is some vigorous educational effort made to discuss these issues and open some eyes before the habits and prejudices of the current adult generation get passed on to the next generation.
Thanks. Yes, I agree: race should no longer be an issue in elections. We’ve pretty much advanced as a society. Unfortunately, race, gender, religion and sexuality still factor into the minds of many people as they head to the voting booth. But, then again, that’s their right; people generally vote for whoever makes them the most comfortable. It gets really tricky when you feel like you have to choose the lesser of 2 evils. Sadly, we’ll be dealing with racial matters in politics for a while longer.
I got a few kicks out of this piece. I think the biggest one is this idea that blacks only saw race when they went to polls. It would be silly to think race couldn’t have played a part in their choice, that’s what happens when the majority doesn’t look like you, but they also saw how easily moderate conservatives got into bed with or stayed silent when their extreme faction engaged in race-baiting and elected officials tried to keep targeted demographics from voting.
Whites in this country have been dragged kicking and screaming to racial equality and we know this. Truman did the right thing as the leading executive of the US and doesn’t deserve more credit than that. He also had the power to do so just like Kennedy and Johnson. Is the standard for white decency so low that when they behave in ways that contradict racial prejudice and hypocrisy they deserve a parade?
I also want to point out that simply giving an objective account of American history and systemic racism makes whites uncomfortable even while they give themselves the freedom to interpret abstract statistics anyway they choose, use them to defend their prejudice, but demand black remain politically correct when addressing whites.. Affirmative Action benefits white women the most but for some reason white men are acting like their losing jobs to less qualified black women, knowing full well the candidate selection is based on equal qualifications and only applies to the federal vacancies or the duration of a contract between a private producer and the federal government. These “decent, hard-working people who take care of their families and mind their own business” are the ones making a minority achievement into a zero sum game.
Blacks don’t just see the President as Black, ironically they also see him as a born American, somethings whites still publicly question.
My parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older cousins, and elders in our church tell stories about their lives that make my skin crawl while at the same time trying to make sure I don’t mimic the savage, nasty, barbarianism they were exposed to just because a white person had it in them to be less “decent”. No white parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, or elder will ever have to recount that kind of personal history while maintaining a resolve treat people based on their actions and not their color.
I agree with you: people often vote for who makes them feel most comfortable from an ideological standpoint, not racial or gender. In 2008, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas ran for reelection; his opponent was a Hispanic military veteran. After I watched them debate, I didn’t like how the Democratic candidate danced around the issues. So, I voted for Cornyn, the first and – to date – only time I’ve voted Republican. I’ve regretted it because, in my opinion, Cornyn has done a lackluster job in the years since. The level of disrespect heaped upon Obama makes me as angry as it does frustrated. From Rep. Joe Wilson shouting, “You lie!” during Obama’s State of the Union address to Jan Brewer jutting her finger into the President’s face, I can’t believe how badly public officials have treated him. But, I really shouldn’t be surprised. Obama, however, has proven to be a better person than all of those clowns put together with his extraordinary diplomacy and statesmanship.